Cairo: Egypt’s newly elected Islamist president held an urgent meeting with the country’s military council, after 15 Egyptian policemen were killed in an attack by suspected extremist “jihadists” in the Sinai desert region.
According to reports, Mohamed Mursi called for an urgent meeting with the country’s military council on Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood’s party said on its Facebook page, after the attack.
Egyptian security sources said the attackers used a stolen police vehicle to launch the assault which took place on the border between Egypt and Israel – and had fired live ammunition at police officers at the station.
Israel said the attack was staged by a group of militants who had commandeered two Egyptian vehicles and driven them through a crossing on the Egyptian-Israeli border.
The gunmen were driving four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles when they attacked the troops, witnesses said. Egyptian state television reported the attackers were “jihadists.”
A television journalist based in North Sinai said the area was sealed off by security forces, blocking the road from the main town of al-Arish in the direction of the Gaza border crossing at Rafah.
Egypt has ordered the closure of the Rafah Gaza border crossing after the attack. Gaza Strip’s Hamas condemned the killing of the Egyptian troops.
The gunmen carried out their attack at Iftar time, when soldiers were busy breaking their Ramadan fast.
“It seems the attack was sudden and well-coordinated, using heavy arms,” report said.
Experts say that militant groups in Sinai aren’t directly affiliated to al-Qaeda but are seeking to be so.
Since the overthrow of U.S.-aligned Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February last year, security has loosened over Sinai and groups of militant Islamists have spread across its northern part, attacking police stations and a pipeline exporting gas to Israel and Jordan.
The desert border between Israel and Egypt was relatively quiet for decades after the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979. But Israel says that since the fall of Mubarak, Cairo has lost its grip on the Sinai.
In April, Israel said a rocket fired from the Sinai hit the resort of Eilat, causing no injuries, while last August cross-border infiltrators shot dead eight Israelis. Israeli soldiers repelling the attack accidentally killed five Egyptian guards.